One of my life’s favorite experiences transpired in the way that children’s movies often portray the banishment of an evil-doer, the victory of the all-loving hero and the associated purification and beautification of all the land (flowers start sprouting) peoples and creatures (rejoicing)! On an otherwise normal vacation day in Central Venezuela, I was grappling with the mundane and exasperating task of planning how to best use public transit to get to a destination.
As a brown-skinned woman approached, I suspected nothing more than a tout trying to sell something.
But she smiled shyly, and in simple Spanish, she told me that her son had never before seen a white woman and if he may kiss me. I then noticed the little boy standing off from her side watching me curiously. To a question like this, there could never be an answer other than yes. When given the okay, the little boy, six years old maybe, moved in close to me and extended his innocent face out to mine to plant one small delicate kiss on my cheek. It was the sweetest and most meaningful kiss I have ever received. In that second, all the racism, classism and -isms of the world melted away, being replaced by profound purity and humanity, as can only be fulfilled by an innocent and well-meaning child.
To go back in time, this experience was particularly profound to me because I am a recovered racist.
I have lived in Northern British Columbia most of my life, and in times when racism was more rampant, certainly more overt than it is today. I was raised with the faulty belief that my whiteness was part of a ranking system which made me better than certain other races and cultures.
As a younger person, I had no grasp of the Aboriginal experience with colonizers, and as such, made the juvenile and uninformed assumption that I was simply superior to my Aboriginal Classmates. In assuming superiority, I had no idea that Canadian social policy had stripped Aboriginal children from families, destroying family units, and creating many negative ripples of effect.
None of my teachers graded me on racial tolerance; however, I know I earned an F.
Over time, and with other influences such as a university education, more liberal friends and international travel, my opinion was reformed. However, a lingering guilt for past wrongs has always remained. That day in Venezuela, when the little boy kissed me because I was the first white woman he had seen, I felt like my transgressions had been washed clean.
I felt the beauty of One World, One People, and the power of small acts of grace.
Like Patricia of Monthly Adventure, I am an adventuress through and through. Upcoming adventures and experiences for 2012 include: assisting my old Saint Bernard to die with dignity as his cancerous tumours steal his life before my eyes; visiting Hong Kong and Thailand; returning to Turkey for the second time in a year, this time bringing my husband, to ensure that his media-tinged impression of Sunni Muslim culture is blown apart; and getting my basic sailing qualifications during hands-on training off of Vancouver Island.